Monday, September 27, 2004

Reality Check #1

I have to confess, today I was feeling a bit down about Kerry's prospects for victory. Part of it was due to recent polls that seem to reveal that perhaps the race isn't as close as I had hoped and part of it was due to this idea I've been hearing that Kerry has to hit it out of the park during the debate on Thursday or else he's done. Even an optimist has a bad day, but I'm over it. All I needed was a reality check.

There's a new Gallup poll, a new ABC News poll and a new Rasmussen poll out, and while Bush is up in all of them to varying degrees, Kerry has risen in every single one of them in the last week and a half. In the absurd Gallup poll, which does skew Republican due to an oversampling of Republicans, Kerry went from 13 points down to 8 points down; in the ABC News poll, Kerry went from 9 points down to 6 points down; and in Rasmussen's daily tracking poll, he went from 4 points down less than a week ago to less than 2 points down today. It's not merely wishful thinking to stress the significance of these trends. It means that Bush's bounce is dwindling and that Kerry's strong performance last week is resonating with people.

It also means that Kerry has the momentum going into Thursday's debate. And I saw a poll on CNN Headline News that shows that, despite what one would think, a majority of people feel that Bush will win the debate. Kerry was at about 39%. These low expectations of Kerry are exactly what Bush benefitted from in 2000 against Gore. When I was in Nevada, I spoke to a few undecided voters who really were looking forward to the debates to help make up their minds. The sense I got was that they were fed up with Bush and they wanted to be reassured that Kerry is a strong alternative; they don't know him and they're looking to the debates to help the get to know him. It is a lot of pressure, but word is that Kerry thrives under these conditions. Think about late last year. I don't have solid numbers in front of me but if memory serves, in December, Kerry was in a fight for 4th place in Iowa and 3rd in New Hampshire. He made changes and in less than a month, he was surging on his way to the nomination. Also, in his tight 1996 race for the Senate against popular Massachusetts Governor William Weld, Kerry sealed the deal during the debates. Kerry has a lot going for him heading into Thursday and this shouldn't be underestimated.

In 1980, Carter was ahead going into the debates against Reagan. The country was over Carter but was not convinced that Reagan was the man to take over the reins. After Reagan's strong performance, he gained the country's confidence and their vote on election day. While the debates provide a HUGE upside for Kerry, I really don't feel the downside is nearly as bad as some say. If he performs up to his ability on Thursday and continues to pound Bush on Iraq as he's done, keeping the heat on and responding quickly to attacks leveled at him, he'll win this thing.


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